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US: Surge of Violence Expected Before Power Handover in Iraq - 2004-05-19

The United States is warning the U.N. Security Council to expect a surge of violence in Iraq in the weeks leading to the hand-over of power to an interim government. U.S. and British ambassadors report satisfactory progress in preparing Iraq for the transition.

In a report to the Security Council on the Coalition Provisional Authority's activities in Iraq, Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said the final few weeks of the occupation are likely to be rough. "We expect that violent elements will make a concerted effort to disrupt the transition and destabilize Iraq as we approach June 30," he said. Ambassador Cunningham said the number of Iraqi security forces is at 210,000 and steadily increasing. But he described the response of Iraqi forces to recent violence as "uneven."

He said after the June 30 hand-over, a strong multinational force, or MNF, will be needed to assist Iraqis in what he called a shared fight. He urged other countries to contribute troops.

"We must expand international security forces to support the return of United Nations international personnel to Iraq," he said. "We are working to establish a unit within the MNF under unified command to provide dedicated security for United Nations personnel and facilities in Iraq. The ability of the United Nations to continue its vital role in assisting Iraqis to prepare for elections depends on its security. We urge the international community to participate in this important task," he said.

In a separate presentation, British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry outlined a wide range of projects and financial aid schemes already under way to rebuild Iraq. He reported that Iraq's oil revenues are estimated at $18 billion this year, increasing to $28 billion next year.

Both ambassadors referred in their comments to the abuse of Iraqi detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Ambassador Cunningham noted the prosecutions already under way, as well as President Bush's apology.

Nevertheless, he said pictures from Abu Ghraib had depicted "shameful acts that stain the honor and reputation of the United States." He told the Council the government and people of the United States stand with the rest of the world in shock and disgust.